My MWLUG 2015 Presentation, "Maven: An Exhortation and Apology"

  • Aug 30, 2015

As prophesied, I gave a presentation on MWLUG last week. Keeping with my tradition, the slides from the deck are not particularly useful on their own, so I'm not going to post them as such. However, Dave Navarre once again did the yeoman's work of recording my session, so it and a number of other sessions from the conference are available on YouTube.

In addition, my plan is to expand, as I did earlier today, on the core components of my session in blog form, in a way that wouldn't have made much sense in a conference session anyway. And, if I'm as good as my word, I'll make a NotesIn9 episode or two on the subject.

Wrangling Tycho and Target Platforms

  • Aug 30, 2015

One of the persistent problems when dealing with OSGi projects with Maven is the interaction between Maven, Tycho, and Eclipse. The core trouble comes in with the differing ways that Maven and OSGi handle dependencies.

Dependency Mechanisms

The Maven way of establishing dependencies is to list them in your Maven project's POM file. A standard one will look something like this:


This tells Maven that your project depends on Guava version 18.0. The "groupId" and "artifactId" bits are essentially arbitrary strings that identify the piece of code, and, following Java standards, convention dictates that they are generally reverse-DNS-style. There are variations on this setup, such as specifying version ranges or sub-artifacts, but that's what you'll usually see. The term "artifact" is a Maven-ism referring to a specific entity, usually a single Jar file, and I've taken to using it casually.

One of the key things Maven brings to the table here is Maven Central: a warehouse of common Maven-ized projects. Without specifying any additional configuration, the dependency declaration above will cause Maven to check with Maven Central to find the Jar, download it, and store it in your local repository (usually ~/.m2/repository). Then, during the build process, Java can reference the local copy of the Jar in the consistently-organized local folder structure. It will also, if needed, download "transitive" dependencies: the dependencies listed by the project you're depending on.

OSGi's dependency system is conceptually similar. Instead of the POM file, it piggybacks on the Jar's MANIFEST.MF file with something like this:


This is essentially the same idea as the Maven dependency: you reference an OSGi-enabled Jar (called a "Bundle" in OSGi parlance... which can also be a "Plug-in") by its usually-reverse-DNS name and provide restrictions on versions, plus other potential options.

There is no equivalent here of Maven Central: OSGi artifacts are found in Update Sites for each project and are added to the OSGi environment. When you install a plug-in in Eclipse/Designer or Domino, you are contributing to your installation's pool of OSGi artifacts. There are some conveniences to make this experience easier in some cases, such as the Eclipse Marketplace and the primary Eclipse Update Site, but it's not as coordinated as Maven.

The Overlap

Though often redundant, these two dependency mechanisms are not inherently incompatible. A given Jar file can be represented as both a Maven artifact and an OSGi bundle - and, indeed, a great many of the artifacts in Maven Central come pre-packaged with OSGi metadata, and there are Maven plugins to make generating this invisible to the developer.

Tycho - the Maven plugin that creates an OSGi environment for your Maven development - has the capability to more-or-less bridge this gap. By adding the Tycho plugins to your Maven build, you can point Maven at OSGi Update Sites (called "p2" sites) and Tycho will be able to find the artifacts referenced by your project's MANIFEST.MF Require-Bundle line. Even better, by using <pomDependencies>consider</pomDependencies> in your Tycho config, it will be able to look at the Maven dependencies of your project, check them for OSGi metadata, and then use that to satisfy the MANIFEST.MF requiremenets.

Though convoluted to say, the upshot is that, when you have that pomDependencies option, things work out pretty well... from the command line. The trouble comes in when you want to develop these projects in Eclipse.

Target Platforms

The aggregate set of OSGi bundles known by your OSGi environment (either Tycho or Eclipse in this case) and used for compilation is the "Target Platform". If you've used the XPages SDK or otherwise set up a non-Designer Eclipse installation for XPages plug-in development, you've seen Target Platforms in action: the installation process locates your Notes and Domino installations and adds their OSGi bundles to Eclipse's Target Platform, allowing them to be references by your own OSGi projects.

The trouble is that Eclipse is a bit... inflexible when it comes to specifying a project's Target Platform. Though Eclipse has the capacity to have many Target Platform definitions, only one is active at a time for your entire workspace. Moreover, this Target Platform (plus any projects in your workspace) makes up the entirety of what Eclipse is willing to acknowledge for OSGi development.

This causes serious trouble for Maven dependencies.

If you have a Tycho-enabled project, Eclipse's adapter will not use its Maven dependencies for OSGi requirement resolution. So if your project lists Guava in both OSGi and Maven, even though Maven can see it, and Tycho can see it, and the Guava Jar sitting in your local Maven repository is brimming with OSGi metadata, Eclipse will not acknowledge it and you will have an error that can't be found.


There are a couple potential workarounds for this, none of which are particularly great.

Just Do It Manually

One option is to just have any developers working on the project also track down and manually add all applicable OSGi bundles to their Eclipse installation. It's not ideal, but it could work in a pinch, especially if you only have a single dependency or two.

Include the Project Wholesale

This is the approach the OpenNTF Domino API has taken to date: several of its external dependencies are included wholesale in source form in the project tree. This accomplishes the goal because, with the projects in your workspace, Eclipse will happily acknowledge them as part of the Target Platform, while Tycho will also be able to recognize them. However, it carries with it the significant down side of importing a whole heap of foreign code into your project and then having to ensure that it builds in your environment.

Maven-Generated Target Platform

Another option is to have Maven create a Target Platform file (*.target) dynamically, and then have Eclipse use that as its Target Platform definition. You can do that by including a Maven project like this in your tree:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
	xmlns="" xmlns:xsi="">

By creating a shell Target file in Eclipse named, this project will locate its known dependencies (namely, any dependencies listed in it or in parent projects) and glom the paths of any of those OSGi plugins found in your local Maven repository onto it. In Eclipse, you can then open the generated Target file and set it as your active.

This... basically works, but it's ugly. Moreover, it limits your Target Platform customization options. If you want to include other Update Sites in your platform (say, the XPages targets generated by the SDK), you would have to modify the base Target file manually, making it fragile for multi-developer use.

Maven-Generated p2 Site

This is the option I'm tinkering with now, and it's similar to the Target-file approach. However, instead of creating an exclusive Target Platform, you can have Maven create a p2 Update Site and then add that directory to your Target Platform manually. That manual step is still unfortunate, but it's not too bad, and it should adapt automatically as more dependencies are added. A Maven plugin named p2-maven-plugin can do a tremendous amount of heavy lifting here: it can track down Maven dependencies, add OSGi metadata if they don't have them already, do the same for their dependencies, and then put them all into a nicely-organized Update Site:

<project xmlns="" xmlns:xsi=""




Once this project is executed, you can then add the generated folder to Eclipse's active Target Platform and be set. Though I haven't put this into practice yet, it may be the best out of a bad bunch of options.

Don't Use Eclipse

Well, I guess this final option may be the best if you're not an Eclipse fan - other IDEs may handle this whole thing much more smoothly. So, if you use IntelliJ and it doesn't have this problem, that's good.

These problems cause a lot more heartburn than you'd think they should, considering that this is basic project setup and not even part of the task of actually developing your project, but such is life. As long as you have a dependency on non-Mavenized OSGi artifacts (such as the XPages runtime) or want to use Tycho's full abilities (such as OSGi-environment unit tests or building full Eclipse-based applications) while also developing in Eclipse, you're stuck with this sort of workaround.

MWLUG 2015 - Maven: An Exhortation and Apology

  • Aug 16, 2015

At MWLUG this coming week, I'll be giving a presentation on Maven. Specifically, I plan to cover:

  • What Maven is
  • Why Domino developers should know about it
  • Why it's so painful and awkward for Domino developers
  • Why it's still worth using in spite of all the suffering
  • How this will help when working on projects outside of traditional Domino

The session is slated for 3:30 PM on Thursday. I expect it to be cathartic for me and useful for the attendees, so I hope you can make it.